Friday, June 3, 2016

The Iron Nun

At the end of my 50th lap the other day, I pulled myself out of the pool and realized the life guard was going around telling others to leave the pool. I caught a few words as I walked by with my pool-watered ears. "Someone hmmphed in the pool". I guess it was vomit or shit. I was oddly unconcerned.

I just recently took up swimming again. I am concentrating mostly on my breathing for now. My friend who swims in the ocean every day gave me some tips. Exhale in the water, and if it seems like it is taking too long to get a breath, exhale in puffs "like a preemie baby with too much CO2". Switch sides-better for the neck. Keep the crown of the head toward the opposite pool wall-do not lift the chin. Just tilt to the side and breath under your armpit.

I try not to suck in too much pool water, because of the whole infectious disease issue. When I was in medical school, we took a class called "I & I" (Infection and Immunity). Let me tell you the salient points: the toilet seat covers they provide in public restrooms are ridiculous. Fanny flora (this is a actually what my professor called it, disdainfully) is not what you need to worry about! Its the things you touch with your hands. Thus I never touch the flush handle directly, nor the bathroom door, nor any door handle for that matter. Also, don't flush and put your face into that space! Flush and run away fast as you can. Will you look crazy, elbowing door handles and running away from the toilet? Probably yes, but so much better than a bad case of E. Coli from that person who never washes their hands, not even once.

I almost never get sick with contagious diseases. Though I hardly need to, since my own immune system is too busy attacking me, myself and I to bother about getting excited about outside threats.

I started swimming recently in my quest to re-achieve some semblance of fitness. I still run of course, though I like to think of it as more of a Frun (flubbery run) or a Pshruffle (pathetic shuffling run). Where the holy heck has my speed gone? I know the cops did not confiscate it. So, I suppose it is hidden like Waldo in the crowd and it is not dressed in stripes but rather well camouflaged. I will find it, if it is the last thing I ever do.

I also do core work. Which is to say, I try to make my middle section feel really beat up. The other day, after the vomitous, feculent swim, I was doing core at the gym and in a small room with 3 other quietly suffering and hard-core women. Three 20-something year old guys came in, and were immediately intimidated by us and turned tail and ran away. Strangely satisfying, was that. I was actually standing on my head at the time. I like to do headstands. It makes me feel age-defying.

When I was a kid I used to do headstands while watching Star Trek and Disney and Little House on the Prairie re-runs. Michael Landon, by the way, looks good upside up or upside down.

I have been thinking lately about choices. We choose whether or not to exercise. Or to stand on our heads. Or to wash our hands. Or to lie or speak truth. We choose whether to run or swim or sit on our couch and eat a donut.  Pretty soon in California, you can choose whether to expedite your own death. But only if you are declared to have 6 months or less to live by 2 separate physicians and perhaps a mental health specialist and have 2 verbal requests in person and one written request and another attestation signed 48 hours before you take the pills, by yourself, because no one else can administer them to you, and the attestation shows you still want to do this and are mentally and physically capable and by the way, the drug companies have increased the cost of the death-hastening medication by several hundred percent and your insurance company cannot tell you if they cover any of this unless you ask for that information and the act of trying to accomplish all of this might just make you decide that you would rather spend the last 6 months of your life standing in line at the DMV.

I care for people who suffer. It is my calling. I am a little concerned about this new legislation. But I am willing to support my fellow humans in finding their way. I won't prescribe death, though.

The thing is, I wonder why we are so averse to upholding dignity, to using the great tools we have (hospice, palliative care) and to not being defined by this culture of youth and ease? Yes, I like to be physically active, and yes I want to run as fast as I can. But I am still a valid person just as I am now: vaguely overweight, extremely bald and just not as fast as I used to be. The people I care for are also disenfranchised, because we have no definition for the value of the aged.

I have looked into the eyes of the most demented person, and have come away changed. How can I explain this? Maybe this way: visit a child, especially a newborn or someone aged 1-2. Are they of value? They are all new and they see the world with different eyes. Same with dementia. It is not a tragedy. It is just human-ness in a different way. Different than the hyper-productive, show-offy, Facebook and Strava-worthy way. Different, real, sad, happy and occasionally incredibly annoying. Like the rest of us, actually.

Which brings me back to the pool. Someone either very young or very old managed to shut down the pool with their bodily functions. I had my workout done, so no skin off my back. Also, I am on a mission to regain my (sort of) athletic prowess. Poop in the pool is good preparation for the actual scariness of sharks in the waters of Hawaii, say if I was doing an Ironman or something.

Maybe I ought get my MMSE checked?

Nah. I want to be like the Iron Nun when I grow up:

No comments:

Post a Comment